Muslim Architecture and History: The Role of Archaeology

Layal Mohammad's picture
December 6, 2018
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Archaeology, Architecture and Architectural History, Cultural History / Studies, Islamic History / Studies, African History / Studies


The fourth in a series of ten public events interrogating how heritage and contemporary creativity enhance and affect both quality of life and sustainability in a range of Muslim contexts, co-produced by Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and held  in the iconic Aga Khan Centre.

Guests are warmly invited to a drinks reception at 8.00 pm in the Aga Khan Centre Atrium.

Stephane Pradines is an archaeologist and Professor of Muslim art and architecture at the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London. He earned his PhD from the University of the Sorbonne in Paris and was appointed scientific member at the French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo from 2001 to 2012.

In this inaugural lecture, to formally mark his recent promotion to Professor, Stephane Pradines will present an overview of the results of his excavations and fieldwork from the past 20 years in Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Comoros and the Maldives. His discoveries completely changed our understanding of the limits and urbanisation of Cairo and also our knowledge of military architecture in the Medieval Middle East, before and during the Crusades. The results of his excavations in Kenya, Tanzania (on the sites of Gedi), Songo Mnara, Sanje ya Kati and Mayotte, help us to understand Maritime trade and Muslim communities in the Indian Ocean. In this lecture, Stephane Pradines will discuss how archaeology can contribute to our understanding of architecture. Professor Pradines will also share insights from his important work in identifying the Malagasy origin of the Fatimid and Abbasid rock crystal. We now know that the rock crystal and gold trades were the main reasons for the foundation and development of Kilwa, the iconic trading harbour and city of the Swahili coast.

Supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Van Berchem Foundation and other prestigious institutes and through his projects and research, Stephane Pradines has worked in close partnership with the National Museums of Kenya, Tanzanian Antiquities and Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. He developed the first field school of Islamic archaeology in Egypt with Cairo University and Ain Shams University and has trained hundreds of local researchers in Egypt and East Africa. Stephane Pradines also works closely with international organisations such as UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, to protect archaeological sites and monuments through ambitious conservation programmes that protect local and international Muslim Heritage and also to support sustainable development.

Professor Pradines is currently running two new excavations; on the Coral Mosques of the Maldives, and on Kua near Mafia Island on the Tanzanian coast.

The lecture will be followed by some words from Anna Contadini, Director of the 'Treasures of SOAS' project and Professor of the History of Islamic Art, who will share her reflections on the synergy between art and archaeology with particular reference to Professor Pradines' work.

The event will also include a book launch:

Earthen Architecture in Muslim Cultures
Historical and Anthropological Perspectives

Edited by Stephane Pradines 

This edited volume follows the panel “Earth in Islamic Architecture” organised for the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES) in Ankara, on the 19th of August 2014. Earthen architecture is well-known among archaeologists and anthropologists whose work extends from Central Asia to Spain, including Africa. However, little collective attention has been paid to earthen architecture within Muslim cultures. This book endeavours to share knowledge and methods of different disciplines such as history, anthropology, archaeology and architecture. Its objective is to establish a link between historical and archaeological studies given that Muslim cultures cannot be dissociated from social history. 

Contributors: Marinella Arena; Mounia Chekhab-Abudaya; Christian Darles; François-Xavier Fauvelle; Elizabeth Golden; Moritz Kinzel; Rolando Melo da Rosa; Atri Hatef Naiemi; Bertrand Poissonnier; Stéphane Pradines; Paola Raffa and Paul D. Wordsworth. Available for purchase.

Time and Venue
Thursday 6 December 2018, 18.30-20.00
Atrium Conference Room,
Aga Khan Centre, 
10 Handyside Street, 
London N1C 4DN

This event is free but booking is essential: 
To attend in person, please click here.
To attend online, please click here.

Contact Info: 


Layal Mohammad

Coordinator, Marketing, Communications and Professional Programmes

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

The Aga Khan University (International)

Aga Khan Centre, 10 Handyside Street, London N1C 4DN

Contact Email: